New York revisited: the 9/11 tour

We have now been to New York three times in the last two years which is much more than we had planned to do, but our son, Archie, got a job here so this last trip has been about seeing him.

I had worried that we would run out of new things to do and see but fear not, I could write a dozen posts about what we’ve been up to. I won’t though, but it might take me more than one.

When I visited NYC in 1987 I was lucky enough to go to the top of the World Trade Centre and it did freak me out a little. What I would give to have that opportunity now. Whilst we have visited the 9/11 memorial previously, we haven’t done the tour, so Archie booked us in. Can I just say that it was fabulous and totally worth doing.

Most readers will be fully conversant with the events of that terrible day, but I will try and add interesting facts for those who haven’t visited.

There are twin reflecting pools sitting within the footprints of the Twin Towers. They are each nearly an acre in size and feature the largest manmade waterfalls in North America.

What I didn’t know is that the birthdays of each of the victims is recognised with a single rose placed in their name.


Consider the organisation. There are nearly 3000 victims remembered here (both from 9/11 and the 1993 bombing in the Twin Towers) and someone goes round every day placing roses on the appropriate names. The names aren’t placed randomly. They are grouped together as friends and colleagues or some other connection. A huge amount of data must have been collected in order to achieve this.

Planted amongst the trees on the Plaza is this one tree known as the “survivor tree”


This Callery pear tree was found amongst the rubble at Ground Zero. There is a lot of supposition as to how it got there, and the consensus is that it was sucked into the site when one of the towers collapsed. When it was found it was treated in the same way as the other victims found, carried out ceremonially and transported to a site for careful disposal. A sharp eyed person noticed that it wasn’t dead although it was severely damaged, with snapped roots and burned and broken branches and is therefore the last living thing to come out of the rubble. It was taken into the care of the Department of Parks and Recreation where it was nurtured back to life. The tree’s struggle for life wasn’t over though, as it was uprooted by Hurricane Irene, and had to be nursed back to health yet again.  When the Plaza was planted the grove of swamp white oak trees created a green roof that shelters the 9/11 museum and the Survivor Tree took pride of place embodying the nation’s spirit of hope and healing, strength and resilience. A lovely corollary is that every year seeds are collected and sent to areas which have experienced disaster.

A little known story is that eleven employees of American Express had gone to a meeting on the 94th floor of one of the towers and perished when the tower collapsed. Amex built their own tribute to these employees in the lobby of their building. It can be visited at any time of the day or night by asking the security guard. There is no publicity surrounding this memorial, but it is definitely worth visiting. Take tissues!


Each victim has an inscription with the words that their families wanted them remembered by. The centre crystal is shaped like a tear and droplets of water fall into the pond from the ceiling, again symbolising tears and overlapping to show their connection. If you look carefully at the photo you can see the water tension is broken. That is Archie looking contemplative on the other side.

Next on the list is the Oculus Building which is really a train station built to replace the one destroyed in the attack.


This is another building heavy in symbolism. It was apparently designed to represent a dove being released from the hands of a child. Can you see it?


The retractable skylight running along the “spine” of the building opens for close to two hours on the anniversary of 9/11, allowing light to flood the main hall of the transit hub. At 10:28 a.m., the moment that the North Tower of the WTC collapsed on September 11, 2001, a beam of sunlight shines across the center of the space.


The Oculus Building contains the longest seamless screen in the world and can play something from one end to the other. Imagine a whale swimming along the length of this.


A new tower was built: the Freedom Tower. An extremely fast express lift (102 floors in 47 seconds) transports the visitors to the top and amazing views are to be had when you arrive. Try to pick a nice clear day to do this. IMG_1808

The next part of the 9/11 tour is the Museum. There is airport style security here and the lines can be huge so pre-bought tickets are a must.

I spent this entire day holding back the tears and I could have just sat in a corner and sobbed during my visit to this museum. This is what’s left of one of the fire trucks that got too close to the fire.


And this is known as the Survivors’ Staircase. It is the Vesey Street staircase down which hundreds of attack survivors fled to safety that morning and whilst it looks in good condition from this angle, the steps are pretty badly damaged. Imagine hundreds of people rushing down these stairs which were listed in 2006 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as one of the most endangered historical places in America.IMG_1784

And finally this rather poignant quote by Virgil – “No day shall erase you from the memory of time”. The blue tiles denote the different perceptions people had of the colour blue and the blues represent the sky.


I had intended to make this about a lot more than just 9/11 but I quite liked the idea of a dedicated post.



28 thoughts on “New York revisited: the 9/11 tour

  1. I haven’t had the opportunity to visit the 9/11 memorial, but I am touched by your appreciation for all the love that was put into constructing it. I truly hope that it brings comfort to those who were so personally touched by that awful day and reminds them that people from all over the world share in their grief!

  2. Each time your name pops up in my emails I can’t wait to sit down, see where you’ve been and what you’re wearing. Today I even made myself a piece of toast for the occasion. Sue you have written such a moving and beautiful post. I just loved reading about the Callery pear tree. I have such a reverence for trees… you know they communicate with each other through a type of fungi in the ground. They take care of each other too. Thank you for a truly caring and sensitive blog post.

    1. I had no idea about trees communicating with each other but I do get upset when I see kids stripping bits off them. I am going to see them quite differently now. Thank you!

    1. Thank you Diane, we just happened to watch it live on tv and were riveted by the horrifying events. I’m glad I’ve been and felt the pain in real life.

  3. My son worked in the WTC. He survived that awful day but his best friend, two roomates, and innumerable colleagues did not. Thank you for your most respectful post and the emotions we share with you.

    1. Thank you so much Joanna, I am so sorry for the losses your son has endured. I wanted to feel the pain of every single person who was affected and I suspect I achieved that. I am again in tears here!

  4. What a beautiful post to such a horrible event. We visited the area a few years ago but you have shown us so much more. I could not go into the museum – I asked what we would probably see there and realized it would be a horrible trip for me, yes, I probably would have sat in the corner and sobbed so we stayed out that day. I’m sure 9/11 will live in our memories just as Pearl Harbor remained with our parents – most can tell exactly what they were doing at either time. I didn’t know about the pear tree – that’s amazing! Thank you for letting me see it all through your eyes – must go back again soon!

  5. Sue, I enjoy your blog and especially have enjoyed your travel ones. This one has me sitting here in tears. And maybe even more because my country is still at war over this tragedy with many many more casualties. Jean

  6. Excellent post, Sue. Truly moving. It seems like Archie and Mark were also touched by this exhibit. We must visit this site on our next trip to NYC. Thanks!

  7. Another lovely post Sue. We had hoped to visit this area when The Management and I were in New York a couple of years ago but it wasn’t possible because we were too close to an anniversary and all of the commemorative activity that went with that. Watching the parade made up for what we hadn’t been able to see. What amazing people the emergency services are.
    Thanks for showing what I missed.

  8. I still can remember where I was when I heard the 9/11 news just like I can remember where I was at the time of the Bijlmer ramp almost nine years before 9/11. It’s always a joy to read about your travels and the photo’s on IG as well.

  9. I do so love reading your posts. Always a good mix of making and doing.
    I was wondering if you would, when there is time, do a post on the benefits and techniques of using sew-in interfacing. What materials you use, how you attach it to the garment fabric, does it have the same seam allowance as the pattern piece you’re supporting?

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